By Sanreka Watley
Caregiving has been a central part of my life for the past 25 years. I am a medical strategist, advocate for healthcare and literacy, children’s author, and care coordinator.
My caregiving journey is untraditional as I do not care for close family members but instead fulfill a calling from God to support friends that I’ve met along the way. I currently coordinate care services for super-agers. The clinical meaning for a super ager is someone who is in their 70s or 80s, has high cognitive or physical function equal to that of people decades younger, often achieved.
I am happy to share lessons gained and pearls of wisdom.
Importance of instilling positive relationships with elders at a young age
I sincerely believe I am who I am because of my upbringing in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. I learned that ordinary servants are not only those who build communities but are world changers. I’m very thankful for each person who touched my life.
My views on caregiving are closely tied to my childhood and being taught to serve others. Growing up in a small community service to others was foundational. I feel passionate about teaching children the importance of learning to be confident, compassionate, team-oriented, selfless, and balanced. I also, think it’s critical for parents to teach children how to give back to them as parents. Teaching kids to do small gestures towards their parents prepares them for potential future caregiving.
Caregiving starts with encouraging young children to develop healthy relationships with elders that include communication and respect. Elders have such enriching stories to share and knowledge to pass on. To strengthen these positive relationships, we should spur kids to be comfortable in their communication with elders.
My parents were adamant that material objects wouldn’t become our definition of self. This helped to infuse gentleness, faithfulness, and goodness. All traits children need to become well-rounded citizens and contributors to society.
My first responsibility with caregiving was at age 23 when I moved to Chicago. Being young and free in a new city was very exciting. Then all of a sudden I found myself responsible for my fifth cousin. I felt I was being asked to do something I didn’t know how to do and was too young. I quickly pulled myself together, accepted the challenge, and leaned into my assignment.
The Importance of Forgiveness
Being able to forgive quickly is one of the bases for caregiving. As a caregiver, you have to forgive and not hold grudges. There are often times to ignore and others to confront situations.
This is one I truly struggled with! This lesson is important because it is a key part of how you manage your emotions and provide care. While caregiving for my crew of super-agers, I’ve dealt with blunt feedback and strong personalities. They have taught me grit for the journey.
Learning to have positive thoughts and forgiving both small and large things will always put you in a position to be the best person for yourself and others. It’s impossible to be a highly functional caregiver and hold grudges. Remember, I said that you have to learn to forgive both the little things and the big things!
Learn to forgive and let go of it ALL!
Focus on the assignment, always
Always recognize the assignment that God has placed in your life as a caregiver. Remember that you are planting a seed and it is important to be intentional about what it bears. Make sure that you’re sowing how you would want to be treated, how you would want your loved one to be treated. Whatever the circumstance, act with integrity. Stay mindful of the weeds that are there to attack and deviate you from your cause.
Focusing on your assignment is what grounds you and lessens the burden of feeling overwhelmed. Although the brick is still heavy, it is easier to carry when you are walking in your purpose! The work you do on yourself is truly your gift to others.
Caregiving in many ways is a thankless job. Be intentional about conversation and actions
Our elders know the importance of time and it being something you can’t get back. I learned this first-hand during a conversation, when one of my super-agers said, “I don’t have days, hours, or seconds, I have moments, and how I spend them is important.”
Be intentional about your time, not only in caregiving but in life. Say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things. Move on quickly from people, places, and conversations that no longer serve you. Remain mindful and focused about the assignments God intends for you to carry out.
In addition to coordinating caregiving services, I am also a children’s author! God put it on my heart to do this 2 years ago, and I followed the calling to write my book called Sam & Uncle Joe: Learning to Serve and Protect which encourages children to honor their elders.
Last but not least, here is a poem dedicated to my super-agers. Enjoy!
Caregiving is more than helping people, it is a blessing!
Unlikely rays have crossed my life
Teaching me sharing is caring and caring is sharing.
You’ve taught me the grit of caregiving,
how deeply one serves and protects
That caring for others gives to all of us!
It’s a calling,
It’s a real assignment from a much higher power!
Caregiving is like a lotus flower:
Enhances your strength and purity,
Grows in any condition with beauty and simplicity.
Every story that caring has is a plus!
Serve and protect.
Twenty-five years of inspirational people,
Caring for one’s who have deeply impacted the world
What an honor bestowed upon me:
Still full of knowledge, power, independence, and love.
Still making contributions to society.
Still helping the world turn.
Every day is a blessing:
Always amazed by their wonder!
Super-agers that enlighten my life with their lives!
Clinically they are super-Agers,
Socially they are magical!
They push me harder, to serve and protect.
With their revelations, they keep me in action,
Showing me that being alive is more than breathing:
I honor you to reinforce that I am a promise.
You’re rewarded with bliss,
Life has rewarded you with a full heart
Your crafty clever speech
Your grace… beauty
Of possibilities and uncommon manifestations
While Serving and Protecting the ones in need.
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow I’ll keep
Caring and protecting.
Fiercely independent and cognitively ahead of the pack.
Your actions and emotions inspire us!
You have served the world through many challenges,
From heart to brain procedures,
Leadership education and community involvement,
Healing the world.
Your life has been a sea of opportunities
Super’s you are the real charge of life
You have truly served and protected.
Copyright Phoebe London LLC
Continue to follow our caregiving blog series at https://www.drjeanneporterking.com/caregivers-corner/